Myanmar opposition set to boycott parliament
Myanmar (AFP): Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other newly elected members of her party plan to boycott parliament next week over a row about the constitutional oath, a party spokesman said Friday.
It is the first sign of serious discord between Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and the reformist regime since April 1 by-elections that gave the former political prisoner her first-ever seat in parliament.
The NLD’s announcement came after the authorities rejected its appeal to change the wording of the swearing-in oath from “safeguard” to “respect” the constitution, which was drawn up by the country’s former military rulers.
The NLD will write to the presidential office to ask the authorities to reconsider, but a resolution to the row is unlikely in time for the opening of parliament on Monday, said party spokesman Nyan Win.
“As today is the 20th, I don’t see any possibility to go in time,” he told reporters at the party headquarters.
President Thein Sein is currently on a visit to Japan.
Myanmar, which languished for decades under a repressive junta, has announced a series of reforms since a controversial 2010 election brought a civilian government to power — albeit one with close links to the military.
The regime has freed hundreds of political prisoners, welcomed Suu Kyi’s party back into mainstream politics and signed tentative peace deals with a number of rebel groups, although fighting still rages in the far north.
Suu Kyi, who spent much of the past two decades locked up by the former junta, has been invited along with the other parliamentarians to take up her seat in the lower house on Monday after her party’s decisive by-election win.
Observers say the regime needs Suu Kyi in parliament to bolster the legitimacy of its political system and spur an easing of Western sanctions.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner has said one of her priorities will be to push for an amendment of the 2008 constitution, under which one quarter of the seats in parliament are reserved for unelected military officials.
The NLD secured 43 of the 44 seats it contested in this month’s elections, becoming the main opposition force in a national parliament that remains dominated by the military and its political allies.
The vote was largely praised as a step towards democracy by the international community, and Western nations are beginning to lift or suspend sanctions on Myanmar to encourage reforms.
European Union diplomats told AFP Thursday that the 27-nation bloc had reached an agreement in principle to suspend all sanctions against the country formerly known as Burma, except for an arms embargo, for a year.
The announcement came days after Suu Kyi and British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a joint call for the suspension of the measures after landmark talks in Yangon.
On Wednesday the NLD said Suu Kyi planned to visit Britain and Norway as part of her first trip outside Myanmar in 24 years.